MOVIE REVIEWS: FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS

A bloody battle is being waged among the critics over the worthiness of Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers. On the one hand, there's Chicago Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper, who calls the film "an American masterpiece ... a searing and powerful work." On the other hand, there's Michael Sragow of the Baltimore Sun, whose review is headlined, "Eastwood's cliché-riddled Flags doesn't rate a salute," and who remarks, "The film has all the coherence and lucidity of a fragmentation bomb." Many of the reviews fall somewhat between those two responses to it, observing that Eastwood himself fails to take a stand -- attempting to appeal to jingoists and pacifists alike with his film about the soldiers who appeared in the iconic flag-raising photograph taken during the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. As Jan Stuart writes in Newsday, the movie "allows everyone to eat his cake and have it, too. It's not anti-war so much as anti-idolatry, a philosophical position that plays to both 'stay-the-course' and 'cut-and-run' camps." But most critics appear to side with Roeper, including Manohla Dargis's in the New York Times. She writes: "It seems hard to believe there is anything left to say about World War II that has not already been stated and restated, chewed, digested and spat out for your consideration and that of the Oscar voters. And yet here, at age 76, is Clint Eastwood saying something new and vital about the war in his new film, and here, too, is this great, gray battleship of a man and a movie icon saying something new and urgent about the uses of war and of the men who fight." Writes Claudia Puig in USA Today: "Flags of Our Fathers is the rare action film that is superbly acted, hauntingly powerful and deeply insightful." And Kenneth Turan concludes in the Los Angeles Times: "We are close to blessed to have Eastwood still working at age 76 and more fortunate still that challenging material like Flags of Our Fathers is what he wants to be doing."

MOVIE REVIEWS: FLICKA

Flicka is finding few friends among critics. "There are so few family-friendly movies and even fewer with girls at the center that I feel awful slamming a movie that is both," writes Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer. David Gilmour in the Toronto Globe & Mail, doesn't exactly slam the movie, but he has little praise for it either. Nevertheless, he writes, "This must be said in all fairness ... When a pale and feverish Katy tells her father it's okay for him to put the horse down ... it's hard to keep one's glasses from steaming up. You know it's not going to happen, but you fall for it. And so do the little girls in the audience -- because that's really who the movie is made for." Still, Manohla Dargis in the New York Times dismisses the movie as "entertainingly ridiculous." Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says she kept wondering what happened to the "My" and the "Fiend" in the title of the original book and movie. "And that's not all that's missing," she remarks. "The screenwriters also have jettisoned much of the book's plot and themes, beginning with a sex change for the protagonist. O'Hara's shy young boy is now a rebellious teenage girl. It's like buying the rights to The Hobbit and then making a movie about a brave boy who climbs a beanstalk and slays a giant." And Lou Lumenick in the New York Post concludes his review by observing, "Some animal-rights activists have organized a boycott because two horses were killed during shooting; the Humane Society says they were unavoidable accidents. Unlike this movie."

MOVIE REVIEWS: MARIE ANTOINETTE

When Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette was screened for critics at the Cannes Film Festival last May, it was greeted by a thunder of boos, followed, after a pause, by a smattering of applause. That's pretty much what is happening as the film gets its release in the U.S. Roger Ebert, in the Chicago Sun-Times, however, is among those applauding it. And in his review he surprisingly responds to the critics who have attacked it. "Every criticism I have read of this film would alter its fragile magic and reduce its romantic and tragic poignancy to the level of an instructional film," he writes. Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe & Mail offers this advice: "Call it eye candy stuffed with real candy. Call it a modern period piece. Call it a costume drama that, oops, forgot the drama. Cat-call it if you smoke Gauloises and booed it at Cannes. Or maybe just hold your tongue, sit back for two hours, and watch, because here's one thing about Marie Antoinette: It sure is easy to watch. And here's another: It's even easier to forget." Then there's this bit of advice from Claudia Puig in USA Today: "Let the audience eat cake rather than indulging in a movie ticket for Marie Antoinette."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.